Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fond Farewell

Today marked the last day of business for Jacob's daycare. Since they announced the closing a couple weeks ago, he's only been there a handful of days. He had three days last week, and potentially only had one more going into this week. Craig and I were both off for the majority of the week (me all week, Craig had to work yesterday) so for weeks I'd been looking forward to a lot of time together as a family. However, the core of our family is Craig and me, and so we sent Jacob to daycare on Tuesday so we could have a date day with just the two of us. Moments like that are extremely rare, so we figured that we'd take advantage while we could. We didn't do that when we were on vacation over the summer, and while it would have been nice to, at that point I was just so focused on making it a good week for Jacob that I didn't seriously consider it. We had too many plans and not enough time as it was! But this time around I was dead set on doing it, and that plan was solidified when we found out about the closing. On one hand I felt bad about keeping him home all week since his remaining time there was so limited, but I know that it's best for him to have that time with us, so I figured that the one day was a happy medium. It would be a good chance to say goodbye...for him and his teachers.

I suppose now would be a good time to rewind to Monday, when we spent the morning touring daycares. We had limited our touring to three, knowing that one in the area was too expensive and another has a waiting list a mile long. One of the three was one we had visited previously, another didn't accept infants so it wasn't an option last time, and the other was one that for some reason we never looked at the first time around. There was also a new one that was supposed to be opening on Monday, the first day post-closing, but we found out prior to taking a tour on Tuesday that their license hadn't been approved yet. While I would have been interested to look at it, just in case, it really wasn't an option based solely on timing. Too bad, since some of his former classmates and teachers may eventually end up there. So....the first one we went to on Monday was the one that didn't take infants. While the director was nice, we just weren't digging it. No major red flags, but it just didn't wow us. The next one was the one we had been to before. I felt about the same about it as I did the first time, though I liked the room Jacob would be moving into much better than the infant rooms. The people were nice and it would have been a little cheaper than option #3. And really, I think things would have been fine had we chosen that place. But option #3, the one we didn't know about last time, was the winner. It's located right around the corner from our house (ironic that we're trying to move--more on that later--but it's still relatively convenient no matter where we go in Greece), adjacent to (but not affiliated with) a Methodist church. The price is about the same as what we're paying now, and Jacob loved the toys in his new room. We didn't get to meet his teacher (a little scary, I know, but this was a tough week to do tours everywhere), but we do know someone whose kids have gone there for years. We haven't talked to them directly about it, but they're actually on the reference list and their longevity alone makes me think that they're probably pretty happy with it. All meals and snacks are provided, and when Jacob's older they'll even take field trips to Strong Museum and other places around town. That's pretty cool.

The transition itself should be interesting. Jacob's at an odd age, because everything is going to change at once. Not only is he going to be at a new center with new teachers and friends, but he's also transitioning into toddler life from infanthood. Toddlers eat meals at a table in regular chairs and sleep on cots, mats or mattresses on the floor, rather than in cribs. I can't imagine how they're ever going to get him down when he's not barred in, since he's not a big nap fan unless he's already sufficiently (but not overly) tired. He always likes to get up and go, so keeping him in one place will be a challenge. They also go out and play in the snow, which will be a new experience for him. I need to make sure he's fully equipped before the weekend is over! It's going to be a whole new world of new foods, new people, new schedules and new experiences, and I'm sure in the long run it will be good. I'm hoping he's too distracted by exploring all of the new stuff to worry about me leaving him there, but I have a feeling that a meltdown will happen one of these days when he gets the idea that I'm going to leave him there everyday and he's not going to be seeing the friends and teachers he's been with for much of his life.

Well, after going in Tuesday and saying our goodbyes, I got a bit emotional on the drive home. It's so hard saying goodbye to people that you know care about your child. Realizing that they won't be there to love and protect him and that they'll no longer have the opportunity (or privilege!) to see him every day was a sobering reality. It was just so incredibly sad. And while Jacob won't know what happened until it's over, and even then won't be able to express his emotions about it (a slightly scary prospect in and of itself), it's sad to think about the special people he's about to lose.

Today we decided to go in and meet with our realtor to discuss putting in an offer on a house. We found one a couple weeks ago that we really liked, and my parents gave it the thumbs up when they had a chance to see it on Sunday. It's a really unique house, about the same age as ours now, about five minutes from where we live now. There are many things that we love (the layout, the size, all of the updates), a couple odd quirks (weird entrance points and an odd kitchen), and a couple things we're a little nervous about (a larger yard and a pool), but when we considered the updates we'd still need to do to our existing house, and how we'd like to have a bigger house in preparation for any family additions, it's a pretty good deal for the money. We put in a low offer (and obviously a contingent one) so it may not get us anywhere, but they've already had their offer accepted on their new house a few weeks ago, so hopefully they're motivated enough to consider it. We shall see.

In any event, we figured that the realtor's office was no place for Jacob so we dropped him off for a few hours, much to the delight of the staff. They were excited for a last chance to hang out with him, and it was nice to know he'd get one last hurrah there. It was pretty quiet considering many parents were off today, but when we returned about an hour before today's early closing time, it provided a unique opportunity for everyone. The two semi-connected infant rooms were wide open, and the kids and teachers moved freely between the two. Shortly after we arrived another parent came in, and we all just hung out, watching the kids play and chatting with the teachers. Over the next hour or so, a few more parents arrived. We had a really nice time meeting parents we had never met and comparing notes on the kids and our respective day care searches. Jacob's usually the last to arrive and the last to leave, so while I'm seeing everyone's kids in the morning when we get there, it's easy to forget that everyone else is seeing Jacob when they come in to pick up. Apparently he plays ball with other parents much like other kids will climb on me or dig in my bag when I get there in the morning. The teachers had near-permanent teary eyes all afternoon, but it was nice to know how much they care. Sure, they're losing their jobs, but they're also saying goodbye to kids that they've had nearly as much a hand in raising as us parents. All in all, we were there a couple hours. There were many goodbye attempts, usually thwarted by distracted kids running off to something else, and many last hugs and kisses and laughs. It was really sad for everyone. We'll still see one teacher at the Amerks games, but my goal is to keep up with the rest either via email or by sending them a link to this blog or my Facebook photo albums. I think they'd appreciate the updates periodically. You always like to see how your projects turn out, and when your "project" happens to be a rapidly developing little person, I can only imagine how curious you'd be to see the changes. Just today we were marveling at a couple old pictures of Jacob and another of his little friends that one of the teachers dug up, amazed at how tiny they were back then. Everything changes so quickly!

And yes, life does move on. I'm sure Jacob will adjust splendidly to his new daycare and will become as comfortable there as he was before. Of course, he had been going there since he was seven weeks old so we've got 16 months of history to overcome, but given some time, he will adjust. It seems everything's changing these days, and I'm sure 2010 will be no exception. It's hard to let go of the past, but it could be a big year for all of us so we just need to look ahead to great things to come. So, as usual, we'll just be holding on for the ride! Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Week in Review

Well, it's been a busy week as predicted. Usually I dislike the week after Christmas because it's such a letdown after all of the buildup, but this year it's been a bit of a relief and it's been nice just being able to spend time with Jacob. After the unpleasant surprise of our daycare's closing, it's been sort of a strange time on that front, knowing that his time there was almost up and he'd be spending most of the daycare's last week with us anyway. We did drop him off there yesterday, though, so Craig and I could have a day together. We went out for lunch and to a movie (Couples Retreat--funny, silly, but with some serious undertones as well) before finishing up with some shopping. We didn't get much despite all the sales--just a couple storage bins, a Christmas tin of popcorn, and (finally) a set of stocking hangers that I'd liked at Target--50% off! It was a good day, and it's been a nice week off so far.

I worked until Wednesday last week, and the evenings all week were quite stressful...lots of quick shopping trips, wrapping and last minute craft projects had to get finished up. We wanted to get on the road Wednesday night, but it became apparent that that wasn't going to happen. So, I just focused on getting my stuff done and preparing for an early departure in the morning on Christmas Eve. Even with getting most things done the night before, we still didn't get on the road until late morning. That left us with very little down time at Craig's parents' house before the festivities got going, but we managed. We went to Christmas Eve mass at Craig's parents' church at 4:30, and despite a couple escape attempts, Jacob was a very good boy. Afterward we headed to Craig's Aunt Marie's for the big family gathering. We ate well, received a few nice gifts, and eventually headed back to Craig's brother's house to exchange gifts with the immediate family. Jacob got some very nice things--clothes, a Little People parking ramp, an Elmo cell phone, and 150 plastic ball-pit balls. He also got a little pop-up Star Wars tent-thing that was supposed to serve as the ball pit, but it doesn't have a bottom so I inflated his kiddie pool for that instead. But this morning he did have fun crawling into the tent and looking out all of its windows!

Here he is with his Elmo phone...

And here he is after throwing two balls at once. This started a ball war in which all 150 balls eventually made their way into every nook and cranny of the living room! Craig even got in on the action!
It ended up being a very late night, but Jacob did pretty well considering. We all slept pretty well and left the next morning for a long day in North Tonawanda. We arrived at noon and Jacob got to open his big gift shortly thereafter...notice Craig's Elmo shirt, which he willingly bought for himself as Jacob's gift to him :)
The big gift was a tricycle/big wheel with a "Cars" theme that makes all sorts of noises and lights up. Very cool. Jacob slowly but surely got more into unwrapping, but he only managed to rip off small pieces most of the time.
After a delicious meal and more presents, we headed to the Binkley gathering. Jacob was the youngest child present, which meant that he had the opportunity to put the baby Jesus in the manger. It's a long standing tradition, though I have no idea if we actually did it last year or not. Here we are with Jesus...
The actual placement didn't go very well and we almost took out an angel in the process. Oh well. Maybe next year. We ate more there and then came back to my parents' house for the gathering with my mom's side of the family. That event was punctuated by a nasty case of constipation for Jacob. We spent a good half hour or so trying to help him poop (yeah, nasty) and soothing his painful cries. Eventually he pooped out two poops not much smaller than golf balls (ouch) and he was back on his merry way. All in all it was a nice Christmas, but very tiring. Jacob got some great gifts and our living room is filled to the brim. Good thing we're still working on that bigger house...
Craig had to come back to Rochester to work games the two days after Christmas, so Jacob and I spent a couple extra days with my parents before they brought us back on Sunday. Jacob kept us all on our toes, constantly wanting to climb up the steps...
And here's a shot of Jacob on his new wheels...he likes it more than his face would imply...

We had a very nice time and have been enjoying our time back at home this week as well. Nice to know we still have more time to go! Still, there's lots of cleaning and organizing to do to get the house back in showing shape. We still have to finalize some daycare stuff as well, so it's a good thing we had this week to get it all done. I'll hopefully post an update on that soon. If I don't get to it tomorrow, have a very happy new year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost there...

Christmas is just a couple days away, and the to do list is still long but shrinking. Most of the buying and wrapping is done, but there's still a little of that left. Tonight I also have to pack, drop off a gift for the neighbors, and soak in those last few moments before Christmas with our Christmas tree. Then we'll be off to Buffalo, tonight if we can, or worst case scenario first thing tomorrow morning. We have a long couple days of family and fun to enjoy. It's always a marathon, but it's worth it.

I've long bemoaned the fact that we haven't been able to spend Christmas in our own house in front of our own tree, and won't in the visible future. Family is a priority for us this time of year, so as long as we live here, we will have to travel to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our families. And while that's fine, it still leaves me sad that we may never see our kids bounding into our living room on Christmas morning in their pj's to see what Santa brought them. That's not to say they won't do it elsewhere (though I still haven't figured out the logistics of that--do we bring the gifts with us (ugh) or do we just set the precedent that Santa came to our house and we'll see the gifts tomorrow?), but it still wouldn't be our house and our tree. I have fond memories of Christmas mornings at home, waking up too early and killing time in bed, being held at the top of the stairs for a picture (talk about torture), and then being released to see what was under the tree. We'd open gifts, have a great breakfast (usually cinnamon buns or something similarly sweet and delicious), and then head off to church before starting a full day of family gatherings. Even in the weeks before Christmas I enjoyed the build-up, from Christmas programs at church to Christmas crafts at school, caroling with the youth group, and wrapping my little batch of gifts at my mom's wrapping station in the basement. No doubt Jacob and any future sibling(s) will have some version of most of these, but sometimes I wonder. If we end up sending him to public school, will they be too politically correct to even be able to do a Christmas craft? My memories of Christmas Eve always include the Sunday School Christmas program, though our church does their kids' program a couple weeks before (which is good since we wouldn't be around on Christmas Eve anyway). So, like I said, Jacob's Christmas experience may be vastly different than mine.

A couple weeks ago when we were discussing Christmas Eve plans with Craig's family, it came up that the extended family's Christmas Eve gathering isn't what it used to be. It's hard for me to know since I've only been going there for about seven years, but I could say the same about my family's Christmas Day celebrations. Things have certainly changed, and most of us would probably say that it's not for the better, for one reason or another. But as I thought about it further, I realized that things almost have to change. The settings, the people, the gift-giving....certainly our parents went through the same types of changes from the time they were kids to when they had kids of their own. And even though it may not be the Christmas they remember, they seem to have adjusted just fine. And we will too. I just hope the central focus of family stays intact.

It should be interesting to see how Jacob does this Christmas. While he wasn't too adept at unwrapping last year, he still managed to enjoy Christmas a lot. And this year he should be better. However, last night we did a trial run with a gift from his teachers at daycare, and he wasn't into it at all! I'm sure when he sees his cousins getting excited and is faced with a big, shiny present he'll figure it out. Or he'll be exhausted from all of the excitement and just melt into a pool of tears, but that's the story of our lives right now anyway. When Jacob's happy, he's such an awesome little boy...but he definitely has his moments these days where one little thing can set him off. Despite those moments he's been keeping us laughing with his humorously-timed "Yeah"s and his generally playful nature. His love of sports is coming through more than ever. He's almost constantly walking around with something that resembles a baseball bat or a hockey stick, or if he's not, he's pretending to swing a baseball bat or is showing off his great arm. He says "hockey" and "Amerks" a lot, and enjoys clapping along when I start a "Let's go Amerks!" chant. It's so cute!

I'm definitely looking forward to the rush of the Christmas season being over so I can just hang out with Jacob, guilt free. Lately I feel like I've either been ignoring him while I'm trying to get all of the Christmas preparations done, or I'm dragging him off to some errand that needs to get done. He's been a trooper but I feel like it really hasn't been fair to him. He'll get rewarded with most of a full week and a half with Craig and me, which should be fun. He'll have one daycare day in the midst of all that, hopefully for a nice date day for Craig and me. Jacob's teachers were crushed to hear he wouldn't be around much next week, since it is the last week ever there, so they're glad to have just that one day. It's been a weird week around there, as you may imagine. There's been a lot of sadness, or at least, a sad resignation that the teachers won't be seeing the kids anymore. When you spend the day with growing, learning kids on a daily basis, I imagine it's got to be like a part of you dying to not be able to watch their development anymore. We did give Jacob's four main teachers a pretty nice Christmas gift as a thank you for everything. It's a tough time to be out of work, so hopefully they'll have a nice (relatively cheap) dinner on us. And the teachers he doesn't have anymore got some of the cinnamon ornaments I whipped up the other night. Just a little something, I guess.

Well, it's been a busy week so far and it will only get crazier, at least for the next couple days. I'm definitely looking forward to it, though...if only I could relax! If I don't get around to blogging in the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Daycare Disaster

When it comes to daycares, I know that a "disaster" can be much worse than this, but this is a pretty darn frustrating situation we're in. When I walked into daycare to pick Jacob up on Friday, I noticed that the owner and her husband were both there. That's rare at that time of day. I went to the sign-in book to sign Jacob out, and there was an envelope clipped to his page. The owner was standing there at that moment and informed me that I'd want to read the letter inside before I left and we could discuss it when I came back out from getting Jacob. She then metioned that it was sad news. A couple things went through my head, including major staff shakeups, but I'll admit that what actually happened wasn't as huge of a surprise as it could have been. So, as I walked down the hallway, I read the letter. Jacob's daycare will be closing...effective December 31st. So, yeah...we get less than two weeks notice that we need to find a new daycare, and in the middle of that span is Christmas and New Year's. Ummm.....great. That definitely put a damper on the weekend, in so many ways.

They're closing for financial reasons. That amazes me considering how much we pay, but I do know that enrollment has dropped since we were first there. When Jacob started there, there were at least five kids in each of three infant rooms, plus at least three toddler rooms and the preschool room. There are only two infant rooms now, and two toddler rooms, plus the preschool room. Apparently enrollment was only enough to cover salaries, let alone rent and bills. They hadn't paid rent since September. They'll be auctioning off all of the equipment and supplies to try to pay everything back. It's sad, because the owner is a succesful author and lecturer when it comes to her educational philosophy (it's very play-centered), and I'm sure it kills her to see the living, breathing version of that philosophy end up a financial mess. It's horrible. Ironically, a friend of ours just called me this week and told me that his 7-month-old daughter was starting her new daycare this week, after theirs closed for financial reasons. Guess it's just another sign of the rough economy...less parents working = less need for daycare...or at least, less ability to afford one.

Obviously the thought of finding a new daycare in the next couple weeks is scary. You need to find one that has openings, is affordable, has an atmosphere we're comfortable with, and is convenient. That is no small challenge. At this point (not having been able to make a single call yet), I think we'll probably end up at one that was our second choice the first time around. When I called around a couple weeks ago to see if other daycares were cheaper now that Jacob was approaching 18 months (some change price at that point, ours did not), that place seemed eager to get us in, so I'd assume they have an opening. They're slightly cheaper than ours now, and they provide all meals and snacks, which ours does not. It's right around the corner from us as well, though not quite as convenient as our current one. We did think that one was a bit chaotic when we first looked at it, but knowing what we know now and having some idea of what we'd like for Jacob, we may have a different opinion now. We'll definitely have to call around and see what's out there, and hopefully get some touring in during the week we both have off from work. Thank goodness even more for that time off now!! I am not looking forward to doing the touring again, because it's agonizing. As you may recall from our first go-around, it was so hard to balance financial needs with Jacob's needs, and to know that the place was going to be good for him. And now that we're used to one thing, we'll have the challenge of trying to figure out if changes to that routine will actually be for the better. For all we know, the change might be great for Jacob. The play-centered curriculum was definitely fun and allowed for a lot of creativity, but there are times that I wonder if more formal teaching or direction would be good, too. For example, his current daycare doesn't do set art projects. No construction paper pumpkins or Christmas trees, for example. They did a lot of free form finger painting with other things besides paint (pudding, for example). And while that's fine for babies, I think it helps sometimes to have real instructions for kids to follow. Might it stifle their creativity? Maybe a little...but there are ways around that, too. I don't know. If nothing else, not having to make meals for Jacob will be a nice time and money saver. Yep, I just keep looking for the bright side.

Of course, there is a very real downside. Jacob has been going there since he was seven weeks old. He's been with many of the same kids for a good portion of that time. He's dealt with many of the same teachers for months, if not over a year. There is a lot of staff rotation there, and he's come to know many different faces there. And they know him. As much as I wanted to feel sorry for us after I read the letter ("There goes Christmas vacation..."), I couldn't help but feel incredibly more sorry for the staff. They're all very friendly and we've gotten to know them well over the past 16 months. All of the teachers have been great to Jacob, even the ones he hasn't actually had yet. One has been with him for most of his time there, save for maybe a month or two here and there...and even then she was always nearby. Right now he's got four teachers that he deals with on a daily basis. The one he has at the end of the day has a baby that's almost six months old, and Jacob enjoys her baby, too. I will so miss seeing that sweet little girl at the end of the day, particularly because Jacob is so cute with her.

As much as I never wanted to send my baby to daycare, I've come to appreciate the fact that it's provided Jacob an even wider group of people that love him. And I feel so sad that that group is about to go away. All of the faces that he's become so familiar with, the surroundings he's spent so much time in, everything's about to change. And while I feel bad for Jacob, I know he will adjust. But I also feel bad for the teachers. Sure, they're losing their paycheck. But they also have become invested in these kids and celebrate with us parents each time they do something great. And now that window into the kids' lives will be closing, and that's got to be a huge adjustment for those teachers as well. I hope to keep in touch with them and send them pictures and updates. Or maybe I'll just direct them to this blog. I think they'd care enough to check in from time to time. It's just heartbreaking to think about.

Adding to the bizarreness of it all is that all of this is happening amongst the holidays. See, Jacob will be there three days this week, and then in theory he'd be home with us right through January 4th. However, I had been planning on sending him in at least once during the break so Craig and I could have a date day and do something we wouldn't be able to do with Jacob...like go to the movies or have a marathon shopping day or whatever. I figured Jacob would still have the majority of the week and a half with us, and he'd probably like to see his friends and play. And now...I think we'll still do that day, but now that will be the good-bye day, I think. How sad and strange that his life as he knows it will be changing after Wednesday. The routine we've worked so hard to establish will be done. It will feel so strange to take home all of his stuff, to know that the toys he's played with, the crib he's slept in, the people he's spent so much time with, will all be gone. And the poor kid won't even know what hit him until it's all over and he's starting something new. Wow. Oh, and one more thing--we may have to go through this all over again in a few months assuming this house hunting thing works out . If our new home ends up in a vastly different area than ours is now, this new daycare may not be in a convenient spot. I don't even want to think about it. So...yeah, it's been an odd couple days. I don't even want to think about going in there tomorrow, because there are teachers I haven't seen since the announcement. Ugh.

On the bright side, Jacob is officially 18 months today. Wow. What a little man he's become, and such an amazing joy in our lives. We are blessed!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jacob's New Friend

As I mentioned a week or two ago, friends of ours gave us their Elmo Live! because Jacob is obsessed with it. Or at least, he loved the ones he saw in stores and blew kisses just like Elmo the second he heard the sample saying that Elmo said. The moment he heard "Elmo loves you. Mmm-hmm, kiss kiss!" and Elmo started blowing kisses, so did Jacob. We were tempted to spend the big bucks and buy it for him for Christmas, but then our friends didn't want it and knew their son wouldn't miss it. So, Elmo now lives with us. Jacob still blows kisses. He also picks up Elmo and carries him around, which is no small feat because Elmo isn't light. All that technology gets heavy! He also hugs him sometimes, which is absolutely adorable.

Anyway, the other day when I was trying to get the perfect Christmas card shot, I caught this video of Jacob and Elmo. It's dark because of the mood lighting I was playing around with, but you get the idea...

Seriously, how cute is that? As annoying as Elmo can be, I can't help but smile every time that happens. That's probably more due to the one on the left of the screen, but whatever :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another week....

Ugh...another week between posts and another week closer to Christmas, which I am not even remotely ready for. I'm not quite sure how some people do it all...getting organized enough to shop early, get all presents bought and wrapped, do the baking, etc., etc., etc...let alone working full time and still wanting to spend some quality time with family. I've done a bunch of baking this week for work--cookie exchange on Monday, and my contribution to our office's "12 Days of Christmas" two-a-day snacks this morning (two loaves of cinnamon pull-apart bread...yum!)--and I am beat just from the lack of couch time I've had! Last night Jacob and I were alone (Craig had a rare weeknight game) and I was feeling compelled to run out and do some Christmas shopping. I had to go out and stock up on butter for my baking anyway, so I figured I'd pick up a gift or two if I could. Of course, it took most of the evening and poor Jacob was off to bed without much chance to play once we got home. I felt so guilty. He was a good sport, though.

I've been trying to no avail to get a good picture of Jacob for our Christmas card. I think I may have to use a fall one, which would be a great one, but seems a little un-Christmas-y. I know a lot of people use the best picture they have from the course of the year, but with how much Jacob grows and changes nowadays, I wonder if the picture will end up too outdated to reflect who he is now. On the bright side, the photo shoot this weekend was good motivation to post more pictures, including some of the rejects. It's been a while. So, here goes...
Here's Jacob on Thanksgiving. I tried to get a good picture of him in his cute outfit, and this was as good as it got. Such a little man.

Jacob likes Craig's hat collection. He will gladly walk around with a hat that's far too big, even if it covers his eyes. And now he can actually say "Amerks", so the hat he's wearing in this picture is extra appropriate...

Jacob has some rather disturbing habits that scare me a little for the future. One of them is putting everything around his neck. Another is the desire to shut himself inside things. I keep hoping he'll outgrow it before he puts himself in danger, but so far no luck. Still, it is cute when he thinks he can fit somewhere he can't. Here he's saying bye-bye as he tries to close himself inside our desk.
On Sunday I was doing everything in my power to keep Jacob in his cute church outfit to try to get a good Christmas card picture. I didn't succeed with that, but I did get this awesome shot of the boys...this one is definitely a keeper!

And now onto the Christmas card rejects. I was playing around with the modes on my camera and had the lights low to maximize the effect of the Christmas lights I was trying to get Jacob to play with. So, these ended up sort of artistically weird, but I do like the lighting.
And yet another attempt to shut himself inside something, this time our entertainment center...
He may not want to sit down and smile in front of the tree for me, but I guess I still got quite a few cute pics. Hopefully one of these days we'll get a mini Christmas miracle of our own and I'll capture the perfect moment. We'll see. But stay tuned for a cute video snippet I caught, too....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Preoccupied...

Wow, it's been over a week between posts. I'm not sure I've ever gone that long. Sorry about that. I guess life is just sort of odd these days. The last month has been busy, getting the house ready to go on the market while simultaneously getting ready for the holidays. The house finally went up on Sunday, and boy, was that a weird feeling. I woke up to see the "For Sale" sign on the front lawn, and immediately went to the computer to see if the listing was online yet. Sure enough, there it was. Very strange to see your own house in photos online, after spending so much time looking at everyone else's. We still don't have a house to buy yet, so there's definitely an odd balancing act right now. We were supposed to have a showing for our house tomorrow, but that one got cancelled for some reason. We'll see if they try again another day. We're hoping to see a few more this week ourselves, but I'm not confident any of them are keepers, for one reason or another. We still do like the original one that started this process, and it is still on the market (good news, bad news...it's a nice backup for us, but the fact it's sat there this long makes me extra nervous about resale next time around if we were the ones selling it), but there are a couple things that are holding us back at the moment. But still, if ours sells quick and we're stuck, it would be a workable option. The house is in amazing shape compared to some that we've looked at, and it's just a matter of its odd location (nice neighborhood, but sorta behind a Wal-Mart...but the house is about as far from the Wal-Mart as it can be. You can't see it from the house.) and that there's a homeowner's association in the neighborhood. They take care of trash and the fee is only about $13 more a month than we already pay, so it's not horrible, but it's annoying. My only other concern about the house is that I really wanted one bonus room--be it a family room, a loft, or a fourth bedroom--primarily for the computer, spare bed, etc. There's a beautiful finished basement, but that's risky when it comes to computer equipment in the event of any sort of flooding. But still...considering the other houses we looked at, that one is still looking great.

So, in the midst of all of this, I suppose Jacob as the center of my universe has had a little competition...hence the lack of posting lately. Not that he's been dethroned by any means, but I guess I just haven't been as intentional about pulling out the camera or pondering every little detail about him. We also haven't had any particularly fun or exciting outings lately. However, we have still been enjoying him immensely these days. He says a new word periodically (yesterday it was "Elmo"--more on that later) and is quite playful nowadays. He's walking around like a champ now, but now that he's got the basics down, he's trying to up his speed a bit and that's causing some extra falls once again. He's definitely got a stubborn streak, particularly now that he can get where he wants when he wants. He frequently pulls the "jello" trick when I'm holding his hand and trying to pull him somewhere...he just goes limp and falls to the ground. That's not to be confused with the "stiff as a board" trick where he completely stiffens up when I'm trying to get him to do something, making him infinitely harder to move. But most of the time he's your typical little boy, full of energy and curiosity. Even in the midst of another cold (the dreaded cough is back...hopefully not for long, but we'll see), he's been pretty happy.

I mentioned here before that getting our house ready to sell in the midst of the holidays was a challenge. I love Christmas decorations, and having to edit them this year was hard. There were so many things that I wanted to put out but just didn't have a place for. I was trying to keep things basic, generic, and neat, and something as fun as our full setup of A Charlie Brown Christmas in plastic figurines just didn't quite fall within those parameters. There were many things that Jacob would probably enjoy, and it killed me to have to put them away until next year. Of course, there were a number of things that were probably too fragile to have out this year since Jacob wants to touch everything. I made sure to keep breakable ornaments higher up on the tree and we're definitely walking a fine line between "gentle" and "no touch" when it comes to the tree itself. I'd like him to be able to touch it and get it out of his system, but he can be unpredictable so there's always the risk he'll pull just a little too hard on something. We're playing it by ear for now. I did keep out a stuffed version of Snoopy's decorated doghouse that plays music, and Jacob absolutely loves it. Now that he knows how to turn it on, he plays it over and over. He's also partial to a plastic ball ornament (anything round!) and an old McDonald's ornament from when they used to do them for a Disney movie each year. It's Dodger, a dog from the movie Oliver & Company. I figured he'd like it, and since it's stuffed, it's completely Jacob-proof. Consequently, it's probably been on the living room floor more than it's been on the tree. I have a whole collection of those ornaments stashed away somewhere. He'd probably love them!

As far as his newest word goes, it is indeed "Elmo". I've always said that I would do everything in my power to keep my child away from Elmo. Sesame Street has so many other cool characters and Elmo is, in my opinion, quite annoying and a giant marketing machine. However, kids seem to relate to him. Darn. Well, Jacob got into Elmo thanks to those lovely "Elmo Live" dolls in the stores. Two weekends ago we were watching the Bills game with some friends, and their kid's Elmo Live doll was laying in the living room. They told us to take it. Their kid hardly played with it and he'd never miss it, particularly with the upcoming influx of Christmas gifts. At first we thought they were kidding, but then they started bagging him up as we were leaving. Holy cow. It was super nice of them and it's at least a $50 savings for us, since we were pondering getting it for Jacob for Christmas, as much as it would have pained me. I don't think Jacob gets the humor of it yet, but it's pretty darn impressive to have a moving, talking Muppet hanging out in your living room. I think he's enjoying it. He picks him up and walks around with him a lot, which is interesting since Elmo isn't particularly light, and he also hugs him once in a while, which is adorable. Elmo Live did teach Jacob how to blow kisses, so I guess I can gladly welcome him into our home. One of these days I guess I'll have to get some video.

Well, I guess that's my update for now. Hopefully more soon!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Feeling the Love

One of the best things about Jacob getting older is getting back some real, genuine affection. When you first have a baby, it's all about giving. You give, give, give, with very little in return. Don't get me wrong, the random little smiles and sweet baby sounds are awesome. And nothing beats the sight of a peacefully sleeping baby. Every little snuggle and every little milestone make parenting worthwhile, but sometimes you really have to look for those moments amidst the exhaustion of caring for a helpless newborn.

As babies get older, you have more fun moments, more smiles, and more milestones to enjoy, but I'd still argue that a true connection with your baby is tough to come by. Obviously you're their parent, and they know that. Just try handing your baby off to a stranger, or even getting them to talk to one, and you'll know that for sure. They might give a smile, but the second they think you're leaving them there, all bets are off. But until you have a real means to communicate with your baby, to know what they want, what they're thinking about, etc., sometimes it's hard to really feel like you know them. You love them and know every other intimate detail about them, but their brain remains a mystery. That's why signing was a huge help and why I enjoyed it when Jacob could finally crawl and get the toys he wanted. Those two things alone provided a lot of insight into Jacob's mind.

We always enjoyed it when Jacob could snuggle into one of us and fall asleep, or when he'd suddenly snap out of his cranky zone when he saw us. At least there were signs that he knew exactly who we were and that we were a good thing in his little world. But only in the last few months or so has he started to show true affection--getting excited when he sees us, giving real kisses, and voluntarily hugging. And really, that is the best. There's nothing quite like an excited "Mama!" when I walk in the door, and I love when we're playing on the floor and he randomly jumps on me and wraps his arms around my neck in a big hug. It's like a big "thank you" for a fun play time. Sometimes when he gives hugs, he pats your back, which is the cutest thing ever. Once in a while he gives me unsolicited kisses when my cheek is anywhere close to his face, and although a lot of them tend to be air kisses or random open mouth ones (even though he knows how to pucker and most of the time does), it's so sweet. And sometimes he just gives these sweet little touches...where he'll rub my cheek or my arm, or will lay his head down in my lap. Awesome. I even love when I pick him up and he completely holds on to me--full body style with his arms around my neck, legs wrapped around, head on my shoulder, and absolutely no intention of letting go. It's one of those moments that makes you feel needed.

This weekend his sleep schedule was all off. Some (most?) of it was my fault. Thanksgiving caused his napping schedule to be off thanks to sleeping in the car and too much going on during the afternoon. He woke up early most mornings this weekend, and his napping was a disaster. An hour here, 45 minutes there, a couple late afternoon naps that threw off bedtime, a couple late nights....what a mess! He was fighting sleep the whole time, and to make matters worse, he's got his cough back. It's not as bad as it was last year, but it's back nonetheless. Ugh. That has been waking him up a bit (or at least disturbing his sleep...he seems to sleep through it but I can't imagine it's restful), and I think just being off his schedule did the rest of the damage. We spent much of yesterday afternoon visiting with some friends and watching the Bills game, and Jacob didn't nap while we were there. He was in a decent mood most of the time (whew!), and he fell asleep pretty much the second the car pulled out of the parking lot. We managed to transfer him into his crib successfully when we got home. However, about a half hour later he was screaming bloody murder. I went in to grab him and I brought him out into the living room. He stopped fussing when I sat with him on the couch and he could watch football, and at some point shortly thereafter his eyes began to shut. He ended up sleeping on me for about an hour, and it was really nice. It happens so rarely these days, and I really enjoyed it. Naps like that are so rare these days, but I know both Craig and I have been dreaming of lazy weekend afternoons where we all curl up on the couch and nap together. When I have nothing better to do (and even if I do!), there's nothing I'd rather do than play Jacob's pillow for an hour or so.

Long story short, it's just nice to see Jacob at the point where he realizes just how special his mommy-daddy time is. He's been a little attached in the mornings at daycare drop-off and apparently stands at the door saying "Mama" for the last half hour he's there, so I feel a little guilty for that, but it's nice to know that he knows the difference and wants to spend time with us. I keep hoping that his desire to spend time with us will make him a happier boy when he can, and I hope it doesn't backfire down the line and make him upset that he doesn't get more time with us.

Well, time to go get some of those hugs and kisses...can't wait :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

I hope everyone had a nice thanksgiving. Ours was quick and busy, but very nice. We did some home improvements on Wednesday night and got up bright and early yesterday to drive to Buffalo. We met my parents at church at 10am. Jacob did really well at church. He made it a half hour before Craig had to take him out of the church. And even then, he wasn't crying or fussing...he just wanted to explore. They came back in for a little while and then had to go back out for a few more minutes, but all things considered, he did great. I don't know if it was the fact that it was harder for him to move around, or the different surroundings, or what, but he was a lot less fidgety than he is for church at home. After that we stopped at my parents' for a bit to bid them a fond farewell as they head to Cancun for the week (luck them!) and to visit my grandma, whose birthday is today. After that he headed off to Craig's parents' for thanksgiving dinner with his whole family. It was delicious and we had a very nice time. Jacob was a very good boy all day long. We made it home a little after 8pm, spent some time playing with Jacob, and I spent the rest of the evening checking out the Black Friday ads to see if anything was worth getting this morning.

Craig was off to work this morning and Jacob let me stay in bed until about 8am. We had a fun morning just getting ready, and then we headed out to do some shopping. I figured I'd probably miss the good stuff I wanted, but it was worth a shot. Sure enough, I missed the good sales. And really, the whole experience zapped my Christmas spirit before it even had a chance to get going. First of all, it's probably a mistake to take your kids out into that madness. Of course, tons of other people did, too. Strollers everywhere! And maneuvering around crowded racks and horrible lines was really hard. I couldn't even get into the toddler boys section of Children's Place the first time I stopped in because the line had completely blocked it off, and the second time past I did, but got trapped. It was horrible. Jacob was a very good boy for the entire trip, but I can only imagine what might have happened had we actually bought something and needed to wait in a line somewhere. Every line was a mile long...halfway back through the store in places like Old Navy and Kohl's. No thanks. It was all pretty disheartening, both that we didn't buy anything and that if we would have, it would have been a painfully long wait.

I usually don't go out on Black Friday. I used to have to work on Black Friday every year (hence Craig's absence today), but with my current job we always have off. In past years I've spent much of the day doing Christmas decorating. This year I'm not sure what to do. I know I'm going to put our tree up, but we were advised to go easy on the decorations this year in preparation for getting our house on the market, so I'm a little hesitant to even open those bins because I don't want to bum myself out about all the stuff I can't put up this year. I'll do it eventually, but it's a little frustrating. And with how active and mobile Jacob is this year, his naptime is the only time to do it. That happens to be right now, and quite frankly, I am not in the mood to do it. I'm probably going to head off for my own nap when I'm done with this blog post, even though I have a million other things to do. The morning just sort of zapped my energy.

The biggest bummer of the whole thing is probably the realization of the kind of world Jacob will grow up in. Maybe it's just perception, but I feel like he's going to grow up in a world where Christmas is so much more commercialized than ever. As we drove around listening to Christmas carols, I almost wanted to cry hearing a song like "Silent Night", knowing that the true meaning of Christmas is a far cry from the craziness of a day like Black Friday. The commercialism and gift-giving overshadows things so much, and I hate to think that I might not emphasize enough to Jacob over the next few years how important Jesus is to Christmas, just because I'll be too busy stressing out about the million things that need to get done. Christmas is such a fun time of year...the lights, the music, the treats, and yes, the gifts. As much of a burden as they can become as we get older, gifts are one of the things that made Christmas so exciting as a kid. And I would never want to take that experience away from Jacob, but I do hope that I can help him understand what is most important. I have fond memories of Christmas programs and youth group caroling, cookie baking and tree decorating, and I hope that Jacob learns to enjoy those simple things too. But it won't happen without a good, solid effort to steer him clear of the crass commercialism.

So, one shopping trip down and no gifts bought. I guess I need to work on my list and hope the sales keep coming but the shoppers decrease a bit. It'll all get done somehow, but hopefully I can keep Jacob out of the fray in the meantime!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blast from the Past

Back in the summer around mid-July, Jacob and I went to my company picnic. We had a lot of fun, and that evening happened to be his first haircut, so it turned out to be a very full day. Well, one of my bosses at work is a fantastic amateur photographer--so good that people are starting to pay her to do things. You may remember her pictures from my work baby shower way back when--though I didn't post some of the fancier ones since I didn't think they'd show enough of what was going on...but they were cool artistic shots nonetheless. Anyway, she had a great time at the picnic snapping pictures of the many babies running around--including two of the three that were born within a month or two of Jacob. She finally had a chance to go through them and organize them (mostly because our receptionist has been begging for pictures from her, particularly after Halloween and now with our company's quarterly newsletter deadline looming), and today she presented me with a CD full of pictures. It was fun to go back and see what she took, because she's got this fancy-schmantzy camera that can take a frame a second or something crazy like that, and she's very stealth! So, anyway, here's an assortment...





These two are from the crawling races. Jacob consistently came in second, thanks in part to his unorthodox crawling method on grass, the up-on-his-hands-and-feet monkey crawl. He was still quick, but one kid was just unstoppable! But obviously Jacob was determined, based on his face in these pictures!



It's so funny to see pictures of him that I haven't seen before, this many months later. He's practically a different boy nowadays, compared to the who he was here. He's got more teeth, thicker but shorter hair (he's been through two haircuts since, and thank goodness, since it was so long in these pictures! His third is just around the corner...), and he's just bigger and stronger and walking! In a matter of four months, he's gone from a baby to a little boy. I guess all of this fits in well with my last post. You just don't realize how much things have changed until you see something from the past. It was fun to see these pictures and catch a glimpse of Jacob I had never seen before. As a parent you think you've seen every look and every photo. But then you see something like this and it's a neat little view into a time gone by. Cool stuff.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Seventeen Months

Jacob is 17 months old today. When I thought about that this morning and realized that he's only one month shy of 18 months, a.k.a. a year and a half, that was pretty crazy. There are some moments where it has felt like it took forever to get to this point, but at the same time, there are moments that I look at Jacob and wonder where my little baby went! When I see other babies out and about, it blows my mind to realize how big Jacob is now and how much we've already been through.

At daycare he usually spends the end of the day with a teacher who has a baby born two days after Jacob's first birthday. So, for the last half hour or so, Jacob and this adorable five month old baby girl co-exist. I don't know how much they interact, but when he does notice she's there, he seems pretty fascinated by her. Which, of course, gets me thinking about baby #2. I'm not so delusional that I think we're even remotely ready for that, but it is sort of fun to think about how he'll react to another baby in the house. Something tells me that the word "Gentle!" will probably become the top spoken word in the house, though. Still...just looking at that little baby makes me realize how far we've come. Just the other day we witnessed her first roll from her back to her belly. Man, that was a long time ago now for Jacob. I'll see all these other babies and it doesn't hit me how much bigger Jacob is than them until I see the size difference.

I guess when you see someone every day, you just don't realize how they grow and change until you have a point of reference. It's sort of like pregnancy. You know you're growing and changing, but you don't realize how much until you do something you haven't done for a while, like try on clothes, go up a flight of stairs, or try to squeeze through a small space. All of a sudden you realize how much bigger you are. But as you go through it, it's hardly noticeable from day to day. The body just adjusts without us even knowing it. For example, nowadays when I'm doing lunges at the gym with 20 pounds worth of weights, I can't believe how hard it is. But near the end of my pregnancy I had gained that much weight and I was still doing lunges fairly easily (weight-wise, at least...balance was another story!). I rarely felt a strain when I had to walk, but if you gave me that weight back right now, I think I'd have a heck of a time walking to my car from my office. Similarly, as Jacob has grown, my perception has changed right along with him. When I pick him up, I know he's heavy, but his heaviness doesn't feel that much different than when he was a baby...because I think my arms have adjusted along the way! Even though his look has changed, when I see him I just see my baby boy, same as he's always been! But when I have a point of reference, I really realize it. Smaller babies, old pictures and outgrown clothes are my best clues these days.

It's been an amazing process and I'm really enjoying watching him grow and change and learn. And there's so much more to come! And just think, when he does hit 18 months, Christmas will be just a handful of days away, and that will be so much fun! Can't wait!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weekend Fun

Well, we certainly had a busy weekend. We left on Thursday afternoon to head to North Tonawanda and meet up with my parents. That evening, my mom, Jacob and I headed out to HSBC Arena to see the Amerks (the Sabres' old farm team) play the Sabres' new farm team, the Portland Pirates. I figured that Jacob would be entranced since he'd never been to an arena that big before, and games at the smallish Blue Cross Arena here in Rochester usually holds his attention. Well, even though we were sitting in the third row, he was so squirmy! He hardly ate any dinner before we left, and hardly watched the game at all. However, he loved walking through the concourse and especially loved "Sabretooth's House", a structure set up in the concourse with a few kiddie activities (although no one was staffing it for this game). We met up with Craig's dad, brother and two of our nephews, and I think Jacob liked seeing them. He even got a little stuffed Sabretooth from Craig's dad. Even though Jacob was a bit exhausting and the Amerks looked terrible (they lost by a bunch and it broke their team record-tying 12-game winning streak), it was still a fun night. I forgot my camera, though, so no pictures. :(

On Friday we hung out with my parents. In the afternoon we headed out to the playground near my parents' house. They have some fun equipment, including some that's good for little kids. Here's Jacob getting some help down one of the slides...


He got to climb and slide for a while, and then we headed out to partake in my parents' newest hobby, geocaching. In case you've never heard of it, it involves using a GPS to find "treasures" that other cachers have hidden in the most random places. You can find their location on the internet, and then you use coordinates and sometimes additional clues along the way to find the cache. My parents pinpointed a couple easy ones to check out nearby, and Jacob and I came along for the ride. We found the first one at the base of a concrete support for a high speed rail line that apparently went from Niagara Falls to Buffalo back in the earlier part of the 20th century. Here's Jacob checking out the treasures inside the cache...which in this case included some army man-esque figures and a bouncy ball.

Next up was a cache somewhere between the canal and DeGraff Memorial Hospital, near a set of steps up to the level of the Twin Cities Highway. Jacob made out well with this one, as there was a soft ball (the kind you throw around your pool that soak up water), and apparently you can take one of the trinkets other cachers left behind if you leave one in its place. So, Jacob got to keep the ball!


And here he is playing with it before we hopped back in the car...

Dinner was a disaster that night as Jacob wouldn't eat. He wouldn't even sit in his high chair. Eventually he managed to eat a bit, but it was a major struggle. Still, we had a fairly nice evening visiting Great-Grandma, and Jacob slept well. On Saturday we briefly visited a friend of mine at their job, and then met up with my oldest friend, Heather, to walk around the N.T. City Market. There were lots of tempting things, but knowing we still had a couple days in Buffalo before heading home, it was tough to buy anything that might need refrigeration or should be eaten quickly. Still, we had a nice time catching up. After that we packed up and headed to Hamburg for the second half of our weekend. We met up with Craig and grabbed some lunch before meeting up with Craig's brother's family for a visit to Chestnut Ridge Park. Jacob played on the playground (more fun slides, some swings, and lots of climbing) and threw balls to his heart's content until the sun went down and it started to get cold. We enjoyed dinner and meeting some new family at Craig's parents' house that evening.

The next day was Craig's Nana's 90th birthday party. We had a very good time and ate well! Jacob was good except that he was constantly getting in people's way because he was addicted to climbing the three steps that separated the room we were in from the rest of the place. He must have gone up and down those steps about 30 times....at least. He also wasn't very smiley during picture taking and was not a happy camper when we tried to steer him to somewhere he wasn't intending on going. This picture sort of sums up the day...he was cute as ever, but everything was a bit of a struggle.

Jacob and I took a great nap together that afternoon (it was sort of accidental, but it was nice nonetheless--our apologies to any family that we missed out on time with...Jacob needed a nap and I had a nagging headache), and we all gathered up our strength to drive home separately. Jacob was with me. It felt really good to get home that night, but as I mentioned yesterday, we came home to a house desperately in need of more de-cluttering. We will be staying close to home this weekend, and hopefully we can make a good dent in it! And then....thanksgiving! Yay for food, family and a couple days off!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Little Video Treat...

This has been the norm for a few weeks now, but here's a video of Jacob walking through the house. It's a little dark, but you get the idea.

The walking thing took forever to get here, but it finally did! He still has his unsteady moments, but he's doing well and is still pretty good at catching himself and escaping injury when he does fall. Of course, he still got his busted lip and a myriad of bumps and bruises courtesy of his new-found mobility, but all things considered he's done fairly well. Now he just wants to go faster than his feet can carry him, but he hasn't quite figured out running yet. I'm sure it's just around the corner, though. It's been fun to watch him walk around on his own, and sometimes he looks so proud of himself when he walks, even if he's holding on to one of us. It's really cute and I think he appreciates having a little more freedom, even if I do have to scoop him up and throw him over my shoulder once in a while when he decides to not listen!

As much as people bemoan walking as the beginning of chasing their child all over the place, I actually prefer it to crawling because he's easier to grab and it's not as awkward in public places as when he was on all fours in a potentially dirty place. I'm sure as he gets better he'll get into more things, but for now, it's no worse than crawling!

Hopefully more tomorrow...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Catching up...

I promise to post something more interesting at some point in the next few days. I have some video of Jacob walking, and a bunch of pictures from a busy long weekend in Buffalo to share, and I just haven't taken the time to pull anything off the camera. Things are a little busy these days with trying to get our house ready to put on the market. It looks like we're pretty close to officially plunging into this chaos, even though we're not sure that the house we like is IT. It's still out there waiting for us, which is nice, but we still have a couple reservations and we're still keeping our eyes open. Of course, most of what we're seeing in our price range is bigger than what we have now, but just as old and generally in need of updates. That just isn't going to do it for us. While we may not be in a position to be picky, we've already done a lot of updates on our current house and the threat of more is part of what's motivating us to look elsewhere. We've done a lot and are ready for a break! We really want a place that has less to do...and nothing that needs to be done right now. We want the luxury of being able to replace or add "fun" things, instead of facing major, expensive projects. And with one kid and another on the horizon in the next couple years, the last thing we want is a house that's got issues. We want a little more space and less stress. Hopefully that's not too much to ask. As much as I am the last person to want to rush things, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to get the house on the market in the next couple weeks so any listing photos can be taken before I start decorating for Christmas. We were encouraged to keep decorations to a minimum (the tree is fine), but I'd like to put up a few things so it feels Christmas-y and Jacob has a few things to look at. I suppose keeping a lot of the fragile stuff put away this year probably isn't a bad idea anyway. But with all the de-cluttering I've been trying to do, the last thing I want to do is negate it all with Christmas decorations. So I keep trying to motivate myself to do at least one thing each evening after Jacob goes to bed. This weekend was a break from it all, and now I feel like I have twice as much to do since I didn't have the weekend to catch up on all of the usual stuff. So, that's my extra-long explanation of why I've been a little infrequent with posts lately.



After this weekend I think Jacob and I are both coming down with something. His nose was running quite a bit last night and again this morning, and today I woke up with a sore throat and a slightly runny nose as well. I just feel a little off. I had a headache for a good chunk of the day yesterday, and my head's a little iffy today as well. Still, I'm glad we were able to get through the weekend without any issues. We had a lot of fun and it would have been a shame if not feeling well would have interfered with any of it. As it was, Jacob had a handful of meltdowns over the course of the weekend, but it just seems like it's all a product of his determination. Once he gets something in his head, he is determined to get it/do it/go there, and will let you know how much it bothers him when he can't. He goes totally limp or stiff, making him like a sack of potatoes to pick up, and he'll pull hair, bite, hit or grab your face in his anger. I don't know where it all came from (per my post a week or so ago), but it is a challenge to deal with. It's all about remaining calm and reminding him that those behaviors aren't acceptable. But it's hard to tell when he'll begin to understand that and if he'll even listen once he does. But for the most part he's still a good little boy. And when he's in a good mood, he's awesome. He's getting to be so fun to play with because he's getting to be more interactive. He loves peek-a-boo, throwing balls, and showing off his baseball swing. His smile is absolutely adorable. Over the weekend he started saying "Hi" and "Yeah, so that's been fun to play around with. Jacob and I even got to take a nice nap together, which hasn't happened in a long time. So, despite some challenging moments earlier in the weekend, it ended up being a pretty good time for all of us. Still, it's good to be home so we can settle back in to our routines and keep working on the projects that we hope will lead to a better life for all of us! More soon...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Growing Boy

There are so many times recently where I've found myself just watching Jacob, amazed at the little boy he's become. First and foremost, I'm sure walking has contributed to this. If I haven't mentioned it, Jacob is walking a lot now. Just about a couple weeks ago he really got going, walking more than crawling, and doing it on his own without our encouragement. Once in a while he still reverts to crawling, but for the most part he's very content walking these days. He's doing very well when he's holding a hand, which I love. Not only is it so cute, but it's a nice break for my poor arms. He's still a skinny little boy but I think he's filling out a bit and (hopefully) gaining a little more weight. Some moments he still seems light as a feather, and others I feel like I can barely support him with my arm anymore. If nothing else, it's nice to know I have options now when transporting him.


Watching him toddle around the house is so adorable. Now that he's got two free hands, he can carry stuff all over the place, so we end up with toys (and other things) all over the house. Sometimes it's fun just to see what he pops around the corner with. I love hearing his little "stomp-stomp" walking style as he lumbers down the hardwoods. I'm still so nervous about him because he's still pretty iffy on balance sometimes. He tries to go faster than his little feet can safely move at this point. We've made a lot of good catches lately, believe me! But after such a long wait, it's a joy to see him finally able to walk around. And wherever we go, when he's walking along holding a hand, he elicits smiles from the people we pass. It's so cute!

Over the weekend I installed his first "big boy" car seat. I managed to get a good enough deal online that I got a Britax Roundabout pretty close to my $150 budget. I could probably get close to that for a seat for Craig's car, thanks to 20% off coupons for both Babies 'R' Us and Buy Buy Baby, but I think I'm going to opt for a different, cheaper, but still very good seat, just because I think the other one will be easier for Craig to use correctly. I think. I think I'm going to go with the Evenflo Triumph Advance, but don't quote me on that just yet. But as for the Britax, I'm actually leaving it backward-facing for a bit longer even though we're well past the year and 20 pounds requirement. The more I read up on the subject the more I'm convinced that it's safer. And if it's a choice between Jacob's entertainment value and keeping him alive in a car crash, I'll take keeping him alive. I read something about how babies spines don't fuse for a long time--I can't remember, but maybe even 2 or 3 years old--and it only takes a small bit of stretching to sever the spinal cord. And the trauma to that area is considerably less in a backward-facing seat. I saw this disturbing PSA (I think it was Welsh) that was a dramatization showing the inner workings of a car accident caused by a texting teenager. While I'll spare you the gory details, I have been haunted ever since by the sight of a baby in another involved car that was seemingly untouched, with his eyes wide open, but motionless. And all I can think is that his neck snapped. Even though that wasn't the point of the PSA, it resonated and I want to keep Jacob's little neck as protected as possible. He's got another 10-12 pounds until we have to turn him around, and I will gladly make full use of that time. The seat will accomodate him forward-facing until he's 50 pounds, so it will work for him for a long time. I still think he might outgrow the height before he outgrows the weight! I think his other seat will be much the same. He can still see quite a bit and he likes seeing himself in the mirror. He doesn't really know any different at this point, so I have no real reason to feel guilty. I'm very comfortable with the decision.

Otherwise, Jacob has been figuring out a lot of new stuff lately. Suddenly he's putting the pieces together with a lot of things. He knows to make noises when driving trucks around the floor, he does his version of "hello" (which he still doesn't say as a normal greeting, mind you) when he holds a phone or his hand up to his ear, and the last couple days at day care he's been picking up a toy spoon and pot and doing some mixing! He even tried to feed me with the spoon this morning! Since he learned how to drink out of a straw a month or so ago, I bought him a straw sippy cup this weekend and I think he's hooked. He loves it. He also likes to blow kisses (thanks in part to the Elmo Live dolls you see everywhere in stores) and knows how to give real ones, too. I love his hugs and kisses, though he's also learned how to shake his head no, so I get rejected a little more often now when I ask for one. Hmmm. He started saying "All Done" a lot over the weekend, though I'm not 100% sure he understands the concept because once in a while he'll sneak in a couple more bites after he's "done" with his meal. He's doing pretty well learning body parts and is trying to repeat some words that we encourage him to say. Usually he's a little off, but at least he's trying. He points to the wagon at day care and says "Wa", for example. You can just see the wheels turning these days, and despite cranky tantrums when he can't do something he wants to, we still manage to have a lot of fun! Getting laughs and smiles out of him is the best, and fortunately, we get a lot of those!

But like I was saying at the beginning of this post, sometimes I just find myself in awe of this amazing little boy. Once upon a time he was a tiny cluster of cells, and then he was a living, breathing, helpless little baby, and now he's a walking, talking little boy. I definitely try to savor each moment I have with him (the quiet ones and the fun ones especially), brushing my cheek on his soft hair, looking at his tiny toes, or blowing raspberries on his little belly...just taking in the essence of my baby boy before he won't let me anymore! I've said it before and I'll say it again....We are truly blessed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Raising a Violent Child?

Ok, so, the last couple days, life with Jacob has been a little difficult. I don't know if it's teething or the seemingly constant stream of realtors visiting our house in the evenings, or what, but Jacob has been a challenge. He's been throwing his cup a lot more at dinner, refusing to eat what we're eating after a few bites, getting angry in an instant, and throwing whatever is in his hand....hard. We're a little stumped as to why he's all of a sudden acting out. While he may have had moments like this before, they were few and far between. He just seems a bit irrational these days. I can't help but wonder where the temper came from all of a sudden.

I'll admit that disciplining a one year old is a fine line to walk. They think it's funny when you respond to their wrong-doing, and obviously you don't want to encourage that. When he throws his food or his cup, I tend to raise my voice. And when it happens a lot, sometimes I even give his hand a little slap--not a hard one, but apparently it's hard enough to throw him off. I know they say that hitting only breeds hitting, and maybe they're right. But how else do you communicate to a baby that what they did is wrong when words seemingly mean nothing to them? My hope with the slap is that he'll associate what he did with that hand to the event that happened to the hand immediately after. I'm sure that doesn't work in reality, but I'm stumped. I've tried putting the cup back out of his reach for a while, taking it away completely, ignoring it and leaving it there, and seemingly everything else, to no avail. And lately the throwing has been happening in anger, with bigger, harder objects. I don't know why things are suddenly causing him such angst! If he doesn't get his way he immediately melts down, and will keep crying for a while...even as long as a half hour!

Of course I'm starting to worry that it has something to do with my parenting, or maybe that something is seriously bothering him that we don't know about, maybe even beyond teething. What if he's in some sort of pain and can't tell us? His lip has healed up from his Halloween incident, but the soft tissue underneath, inside his mouth, is still purple. Maybe that's bothering him? What if it's something at daycare? Maybe it's just being at daycare to begin with, that even if he likes it there, he's starting to resent that he doesn't get much quality time with us? I've been trying to put him to bed a little earlier lately to combat the crankiness and the time change, but unfortunately he just seems to wake up earlier, which he never used to do. This morning's 6:45 am wakeup was a far cry from his 9:30 am sleep-ins.

Craig and I are both short on patience during the worst of it. When he throws something we take it away, and that may just lead to another meltdown, worse than whatever caused the original throwing episode. And by the way, there's definitely a difference between throwing something like he throws a ball and throwing something in anger. The angry one gets things taken away. And when he has a meltdown, it is a full body one. He'll cry, throw his body around (he got me pretty good this morning on my upper cheek when he threw his head back while I was trying to put on his sneakers), writhe around, bang his head on the floor (lovely), and be just plain hysterical for a while. Sometimes you can switch his attention and it helps, but often he'll remember 30 seconds later that he was upset about something and start all over again. And his inability to fully communicate makes this that much more difficult. If he could tell us what he wants (beyond food, milk, or his pointing abilities), it would make things much easier. He might still get a "No", but at least we'd know why it's happening.

Yesterday I got a little misty on the way into work because I felt so bad that I couldn't spend the day with him and try to figure out what's going on. As far as I know daycare hasn't noticed anything funny with him, so of course, that makes me wonder if it's me. Is he rebelling against me because I discipline him too much? Or is it just because I'm his mother and that's innate in every kid to test their parents? It's hard, no matter what. And add on to all of this the stress that's bubbling up over the prospect of getting our house ready to go on the market and it's been a rough few days. The idea of tearing apart our house and de-cluttering it is pretty overwhelming. How do you do that when you have too much stuff to begin with (even if you like it and want to keep it) and need to have baby-related items in nearly every room? And the simple thought that once I start it, our lives won't be back to normal for a long time is scary. I hate to think of paring down the Christmas decorations and removing the pictures and knicknacks that remind us how important our family and friends are. And minimizing toys? Ugh. Lots to think about and even more to do.

Happy weekend, everyone. My parents are coming to visit this afternoon, and then we're going to the Amerks game together. Tomorrow we're going to make a quick trip to the zoo (they're having a technology recycling event, so we'll go see animals after we ditch some old electronics) and do some house stuff. We'll see how that goes!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Weekend

Well, this weekend didn't turn out quite like I thought it would. But yet, it still turned out to be a pretty darn good weekend. After a busy and stressful week (still worrying about all of this house stuff), I was really looking forward to Friday. I got to dress up for work (I was a Deal or No Deal model, complete with case #7...I even won a prize!) and Jacob got to wear pajamas to daycare for their second annual pajama party day. Not having to worry about sending his Halloween costume there was a godsend! It ended up being a great day full of food and fun, and we had a nice evening out to dinner before going home and relaxing!

Saturday we had to be up bright and early because the realtor was coming to check out our house and give us suggestions of what we might need to do before putting it on the market. The meeting was good--she thinks our house is in great shape, though an inspector may have another opinion--but we still have about a million questions running through our minds. Jacob took a long nap in the afternoon that afforded me the opportunity to do some running around. I researched new car seats and did some shoe shopping, and he was in a good mood when I got home. We grabbed a quick dinner and then it was time to do a quick pumpkin carving (I ran out of time to do it earlier in the week) and get Jacob ready for a couple houses worth of trick or treating. We were just about to do some last minute pictures before going out, and all of a sudden I heard a thump. Jacob fell into our storm door and cut his lip on the metal bar that controls how quickly the door closes. He was bleeding pretty good and screaming like crazy. Craig and I were pretty frazzled, just trying to get a good look at it (you know how blood channels wherever it's wet? That made it look a lot worse than it was) and eventually trying to get him out of his costume and start icing it down. He bled on his costume a bit (got it out pretty well, I think) and it took a freeze pop to ice it, but eventually he calmed down and it stopped bleeding. Still, we called the doctor and they said that if the edges were split open, that we needed to take him to the emergency room. Ugh. Still, the bleeding had stopped and he seemed to be doing ok, so I got him back in his costume and took him across the street and next door to get in his first trick or treating. Good thing we did, because those great neighbors I mentioned in the post about our househunting had this nice baggie full of stuff for him--animal crackers, wafer cookies, and a couple easy to eat candies. So nice. See why I'm hesitant to leave them? They were sad to hear we were looking, too.

Anyway, after stopping at the next door neighbors' as well, we went home, took off the costume, and headed out to the ER. Craig remarked that it was like an episode of "ER", going to there on Halloween. Fortunately, it wasn't very busy. We were in and out in about an hour, and Jacob seemed to brighten the night of every staffer there just by walking around and smiling. It was really cute. They decided he didn't need a stitch, so we paid our co-pay (ugh) and went home. At least we had peace of mind, and we're so lucky it wasn't worse. Jacob was great through it all and he fell asleep on the way home. Since the disaster prevented us from getting any good Halloween pictures, I took one of my sleepy little boy and his fat lip...

Since it's a little hard to see, here's a zoomed in version:
The cut goes up under the lip a bit, and there is a purple bruise inside his mouth where his teeth must have hit when he fell. Ouch. The swelling was down by yesterday morning, and it seems to be healing nicely. It hasn't seemed to bother him at all. Once he was in bed, we finished off Halloween night by watching Monsters vs. Aliens...cute movie. Odd concept, but we loved the blue blob :)

Yesterday ended up being a little wacky. Not sure if it was the time change or what. We got up for church just fine. Jacob usually falls asleep on the way home from church and seemed well on his way when we left church yesterday, but he was still awake when we got home and was all of a sudden chipper again. So, we ran out and did a couple errands at the mall (the rest of my shoe shopping, socks for Jacob, and a phone charger for Craig). Jacob fell asleep on the way home that time and then proceeded to sleep through lunch. Oops. I was really starting to get nervous about how the rest of the day would go when he was still sleeping at 2:30! While he slept we ate lunch, watched the Bills game, and I got caught up on a bunch of newspapers and other stuff I'd been meaning to read. Jacob finally woke up, ate his lunch no problem, and then we were off to another open house. We knew this one was a bit out of our price range, but it was close by and I wanted to see if the extra $13,000 more it cost over the other one we're looking at made a big difference. Sure, the living room and kitchen were gorgeous, and two of the three bedrooms were big, the bathrooms were newer and the house was generally very nice....but the basement was crappy and the third bedroom was tiny. But really, for about $200 more per month, nah. Don't get me wrong...I'd live there in a heartbeat. But given the cost and the couple things I didn't like, it wouldn't be my first choice. Still, Jacob liked the stairs a lot and it was, as always, an educational experience. We're still pretty stuck at the moment, but we're waiting on a few answers so we shall see...

Once we got home we headed out to the backyard to play in the leaves. Well, Craig was raking and bagging, and I did a little raking to make some piles for Jacob so I could snap a couple pictures of him. Here are the best of the best...
He's helping put the leaves in the bag in this one...

And now he's helping to rake...

But it's really most fun to play in them!

If you want to see the rest of the photo session, click here and go to page 5. Some of them ended up a little blurry because I was playing with the settings on my camera, but you get the idea :)

We finished off the day with a good dinner and a bath for Jacob. After Jacob was in bed, Craig and I attempted to catch up on some TV. We both fell asleep during the second show, sometime before 11pm. I guess it was a busy weekend for all of us!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Moving Up

I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but I'm not sure I ever realized how much having kids would impact the process of buying a new house. Until now, we hadn't really been serious about it, at least not anytime soon. We've been in our house now for a little over four years. I guess I didn't anticipate us staying any longer than five years or so, but I think I figured by then that we'd have found some excuse to move back to Buffalo, or that we'd both have fantastically high paying jobs that would afford us a dream house...not huge, mind you, just newer, bigger, and nicer. As much as I didn't want to start with a starter house (because I didn't want to be in this exact position of having to move, whenever), we didn't have much of a choice. We were both making peanuts at the time and only thanks to my generous grandparents and high savings account interest rates could we afford what we ended up with. Fast forward four years and we both make considerably more money...but it's still not what we'd like to be pulling in, and day care swallows up a bunch of the extra anyway. Knowing how much money we've put into the house, we probably could have gotten a better one to begin with...but we just didn't know at the time. Unfortunately, there's still a lot more we should do. Forty-five year old houses sometimes come cheap, but they come at a price all their own.

When we bought our house, the goal was to have at least one child while we were there, and then figure out how the space fit our needs beyond that. I spent the first five-plus years of my life in a house that size and our family of four was fine. But times have changed, I guess, with the need for a computer and just more "stuff". Craig and I had more than enough room when it was just the two of us, and were fine when Jacob was a newborn. Once he started getting bigger toys and started to get more mobile, it started to feel a little cramped. And when I think of adding another baby to the mix in the next couple years, I immediately start feeling claustrophobic. We'd have to move everything out of our office--computer, bed, dirty laundry, Craig's extra dresser, a bookshelf--and find other places for it all. And really, there's nothing convenient available in our living space. We're pretty full. Sure, we could reorganize our storage and move at least the computer to the basement, but I'm not sure any of it would make a great difference or be particularly convenient.

Ultimately I think we'd run out of room no matter what, and I decided a while back that there was no way that I wanted to pack or move while pregnant or with a new baby. I don't need the stress (mental or physical) on me or the baby. Moving is incredibly stressful and exhausting when you're 100% healthy, let alone when you're pregnant or sleep-deprived. I find it hard to slow down when pregnant (hence my bathroom border installation and frequent furniture assembly last time around), so I can only imagine the damage I could do mid-move. So...since my ideal timeline is to be freshly pregnant about this time next year, we'd have to move sometime between now and then. It's still a relatively decent window, but it could close fast when you take into consideration the time it could take to sell our house and go through closings on both. Just the thought of it gives me serious anxiety, and I haven't even added packing into the mix...ugh.

I've always kept my eye on the real estate world, probably more out of curiosity than anything, but a while back I set up a recurring search on our local real estate site within the bounds of what I thought we'd want. Every week I check to see if anything new has popped up. There had been a couple that intrigued me, but nothing to the point of going to see any. One neighborhood in particular had caught my interest a couple times because it had newer houses that were moderately sized and priced. They were also a bit more contemporary looking than your average house of that size, so that was neat. It's a series of three cul-de-sacs, making for a quiet neighborhood. Houses have gone up for sale periodically there, but either we weren't serious enough about it or I never bothered to try to see one before it sold. Well, last week I noticed that one of the houses up for sale in that neighborhood was having an open house. So last Sunday while Craig was at work, Jacob and I headed off to see it. I really figured that it would just be a means to an end--that I would see that the house wasn't that great, that the bedrooms were too small, that it just wouldn't work for us--so I could stop staring at listings for houses like that one. Well...that's not exactly what happened. The house was pretty stinkin' great. The last time we looked at houses, there were only a couple out of maybe eight or so that we walked out of thinking, "Yeah, we could live here." The rest were good, solid no's. So imagine my surprise when the first house I look at is really decent. The kitchen is large, the dining room is comfortable, the living has a cathedral ceiling and open stairway, the basement is partially finished with lots of storage, the laundry room is on the first floor, the bedrooms and full bath are nicely sized, there's a nice deck and backyard, and the house itself looks well-built and well-maintained. I liked it enough that we set up a meeting yesterday with the realtor so Craig could see it too. He liked it as well. Now our biggest concern is deciding how serious we are and what we have to do to get ours ready for the market.

But for all the times I've complained about our house and dreamed of moving on to bigger and better things, I still find myself hesitating. When you get settled into a house it becomes a part of who you are. And in the time we've been there, we've had a baby and watched him grow for the last 16 months. And he factors in so greatly to this whole process, in so many ways. As it was we had pretty much decided to stay in Greece so Jacob didn't have to change daycares. I do wonder what a house change will do to him...will he stop sleeping well because he misses his old room? I'd be a little sad to leave our house because we have so many good memories there now with all of Jacob's firsts. It's in a nice neighborhood with a school and a playground right around the corner. I always imagined walking there day after day in the summer to play with Jacob, and maybe even walking him to school there one day. Speaking of schools, is that elementary school any better or worse than the one we'd be moving to? Right now we have a great tree for his swing, but I'm not sure there is one at this other house...though I suppose we could put up a swing set there instead. Our neighborhood has sidewalks perfect for wagon rides, while the other one doesn't really get enough traffic to necessitate sidewalks (but still...it'd be nice to have them). What kind of friends would he have in each neighborhood as he grows older? We have great neighbors now that have been really thoughtful toward us and Jacob, and I would definitely miss knowing that they're there.

Even just having to consider how our routines will change over the years with a growing boy, and someday another baby, is mind-boggling. For example, one of the drawbacks for me with this new house is the laundry room. The good news is that it's on the ground floor. The bad news is that the stationary tub is in the basement and there's probably not much room for an ironing board, drying rack, or a place to hang clothes on hangers in the laundry room itself. Jacob is entering the muddy knees phase and will be getting even more into self-feeding over the coming months. I already spend a bit of time each week scrubbing in our (new) stationary tub. Will it be inconvenient if I have to do that in one place and bring it to another spot for washing? I don't know. I'd definitely appreciate the bigger kitchen with plenty of room for sippy cups and Jacob-specific foods (it's all crammed in one little cabinet right now), not to mention enough cabinets to have a "fun" 0ne for Jacob to dig through. Right now my cabinet space is too scarce to have one like that. It will be nice to have more space for him to run, and I'm sure he'd find endless fun climbing the stairs. But will stairs become more of a pain than they're worth? In particular I think about that for when we have another baby and we're climbing up and down stairs every time we need to go to the baby's room from anywhere other than our room or the bathroom. That said, I think we'll have a tough time finding a ranch that's large enough and in our budget, since most large ranches cost a ton.

We know that at some point we'll have to move because we're just going to outgrow our space. We could potentially spend a lot of money on upgrades for our current house, and there are still things that concern me about it (aluminum wiring being at the top of that list), so it may not be a bad thing to do. I don't know if we'll find many houses this new, this large, and this nice within our budget, but what if we jump the gun and miss out on something better or find out that this house isn't all it's cracked up to be? At the end of the day we just want what's best for our family...be it comfort, convenience, health, or anything else. And when you don't know exactly what that entails, it's a tough decision. Stay tuned...